Hundreds gathered at the Hotel de Ville in Paris today for “24h Sans Nous,” a protest in honor of the city’s growing immigrant population. Organizers of “Association La Journée sans immigrés” called for immigrants to avoid working or consuming for 24 hours on March 1st, in an attempt to show governments that France’s economy would plummet without their presence.
During the peaceful protest, a demonstration by a group of the city’s “sans-papiers” (illegal immigrant) population joined the crowd, beating djembes and shouting for regularization of their legal status. Yellow ribbons, stickers and t-shirts were on sale for supporters.
The political climate in France has turned sour on the issue of immigration in recent months after the government launched a controversial “national identity” campaign that many felt stigmatized immigrants or children of immigrants. “Association La Journee Sans Immigres” is using today’s protest as a platform to speak openly about France’s immigration policies and regulations. Since July 2006, the country’s borders have become significantly more closed, particularly to unskilled workers.
Europe, as a whole, is struggling with integrating the growing number of foreigners arriving and looking for residency or work. Greece, Italy and Spain have seen some of the continent’s largest growth in the past year and numbers are only expected to rise in coming years.
Demonstrations similar to the one in Paris were expected in other parts of France and across Europe today.